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Bombers' attack amazingly bad, so it's all on the 'D'

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Offensive co-ordinator Marcel Bellefeuille works with starting quarterback Justin Goltz at a Bomber workout.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Offensive co-ordinator Marcel Bellefeuille works with starting quarterback Justin Goltz at a Bomber workout. Photo Store

EDMONTON -- It's not that they want to go into every game of their CFL season with one arm tied behind their backs but this is the reality for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The team's defence has been everything from terrible to excellent, but at least it has shown evidence it knows how to play.

The offence? It's on the fast track to record-making ineptitude.

The CFL dug out this statistic ahead of today's game (5:30 p.m., TSN) at Commonwealth Stadium, where the 2-8 Bombers meet the 1-9 Edmonton Eskimos -- no team has averaged less than 270 yards of offence per game in a season in more than 10 years.

Winnipeg in 2013? It's at 269 per game through 10 starts and alarmingly, it's trending downward and hard, averaging 242 yards per game in the last six starts and 222 per game in the last three.

And coming off a how's-that-possible 183 yards in last Sunday's 25-13 win over Saskatchewan at home.

Bombers head coach Tim Burke was asked Friday if he is simply resigned to this kind of poor production as he plots his game strategy on a weekly basis.

"One of the things I addressed the defence with a few weeks back was that we know we're not going to be scoring tons of points so we've got to start playing at a higher level than we've been playing at," Burke said, alluding to the fact that low yards lead to low points, and the Bombers are the CFL's lowest-scoring team at 217 points and have a league-worst deficit of 91 points for vs. points against.

"We've got to stay in games. The defence has to keep us in games. Special teams have to keep us in games and then we'll try to win it at the end."

It stands to reason that struggles will be natural for a team that has used three different starting quarterbacks this season and one that installed a new offensive co-ordinator in Marcel Bellefeuille just three games back.

"As Marcel's gone along the last few weeks, he's learning more and more about the offence, where we have some personnel problems and trying to work around those the best he can," Burke said. "Then it's a matter of Justin (Goltz) getting better every week as well, which I think he is. He's learning from his mistakes and not repeating them.

"Hopefully the mistakes he made last week he won't do this week."

Still, only three times in 10 games this season have the Bombers passed even a very modest level of success, earning 300 yards of net offence in a game.

And only once this year have the Bombers reached the CFL average in a single game, which is 348 yards of offence.

It's certainly trying to win the hard way.

In victory last week, the Bombers had just seven pass completions and won with a couple of other minor miracles -- beyond their defensive success. Their offence, at 183 yards, and passing, at 129 yards were league-lows for winners this year, the overall offensive number by more than 100 yards

And in winning despite recording no first downs in the first half, the CFL could find not a single such previous instance of that since 2008 when its records were adjusted to keep track of such things.

"I don't think anybody's really concerned about the numbers and stuff like that," said Goltz, the Bombers' quarterback who will start his third straight game today, and fifth of the season. "Progress is going to come. Obviously when we didn't pick up a first down in the first half (last week) we felt that pressure and our defence played a heck of a game. We wanted to pick up first downs and keep them off the field because they deserved a rest. So you feel it in that sense.

"From staying together from a team standpoint, we've stuck together through thick and thin. We've been through a lot this year. We all understand we're going win with the guys in the locker room so it's never really pulled us apart or caused us any extra pressure."

Goltz at least hinted he's aware the offence really needs to do more.

"I would like to see more improvement in myself, as would the coaches, more improvement from this offence in general," he said. "I think Marcel Bellefeuille has done a great job coming in and implementing what he's wanted to implement and it's really sparked us on offence. We're just excited to keep taking steps forward. We understand it's a process and it's not going to happen overnight."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 14, 2013 C3

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Updated on Saturday, September 14, 2013 at 10:58 AM CDT: replaces photo

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